Spokane Journal of Business

Zak Designs plans to open four international offices

Dinnerware maker to partner with companies in Mexico, Australia, Brazil, and Japan

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Zak Designs Inc., of Spokane, expects in coming months to expand its international operations substantially by opening new offices in Mexico, Brazil, and Australia.

The Airway Heights company, which makes tableware and childrens dinnerware featuring licensed characters such as Mickey Mouse and Harry Potter, also plans to open a fourth new international office sometime next year in Japan, says President and CEO Irv Zakheim.

Zak Designs hopes to open those offices with joint-venture partners in each country and is in negotiations with the prospective partners, Zakheim says. Each office will employ between five and 10 people, he says.

Its joint-venture partners likely will continue to distribute other products besides those made by Zak Designs, but each office will have one person hired jointly by Zak and the joint-venture partner who will oversee Zaks operations there, Zakheim says.

Zak Designs already sells products in those countries through independent distributors, Zakheim says. Such distributors are a good way to introduce its products to international markets, but, We really feel that in the long term, dealing with distributors doesnt really make us money, he says. By establishing its own operations, Well be able to be more profitable on a long-term basis, he says.

The company currently has a subsidiary in England and another thats based in Hong Kong and Taiwan.

Zakheim says Zak Designs is eyeing other potential markets around the world for sales and distribution offices similar to the ones it plans to open in Mexico City, Mexico; Sao Paulo, Brazil; Melbourne, Australia; and Tokyo, Japan.

This is a first round of doing this, he says.

Additional locations would be ones in which Zak Designs already has a sales track record through independent distributors that would allow it to be able to enter the market and be profitable the first year out, he says.

Zak Designs, which moved to Spokane from Los Angeles in 1992, employs about 220 people company wide. Some 160 of those people work in sales, distribution, and administration at the companys headquarters, at 1604 S. Garfield, in Airway Heights. The others work for Zaks Asian manufacturing subsidiary, Sara Rose International Inc., and for Zak Designs Ltd. U.K., its subsidiary that oversees licensing, marketing, and distribution in Europe, the Middle East, Africa, and India.

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